Article 2 of the First Protocol: Right to education

Published: 4 May 2016

Last updated: 3 June 2021

What countries does this apply to?

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales

Protocol 1, Article 2 protects your right to an effective education

Parents also have a right to ensure that their religious and philosophical beliefs are respected during their children’s education.

Restrictions to the right to education

The right to education does not give you the right to learn whatever you want, wherever you want. The courts have ruled that the right to education relates to the education system that already exists. It does not require the government to provide or subsidise any specific type of education.

The government is allowed to regulate the way education is delivered. For example, it can pass laws making education compulsory or imposing health and safety requirements on schools. Schools are allowed to use admission policies so long as they are objective and reasonable.

Although parents have a right to ensure their religious or philosophical beliefs are respected during their children’s education, this is not an absolute right. As long as these beliefs are properly considered, an education authority can depart from them provided there are good reasons and it is done objectively, critically and caters for a diversity of beliefs and world views.

What the law says

This text is taken directly from the Human Rights Act.

Protocol 1, Article 2: Right to education

No person shall be denied a right to an education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

Example case - R (Hounslow London Borough Council) v School Admissions Appeal Panel for Hounslow London Borough Council [2002]

The admissions policy of a primary school in West London prioritised children who lived in the school’s designated catchment area. This meant that some children who lived outside this area, but who had brothers or sisters attending the school, were not admitted because of the pressure on class sizes. A group of parents challenged this decision. The court held that the school’s admission policy did not violate the right to education. It emphasised that, where applications exceed the number of school places, admissions authorities have to use a fair process to make practical, objective decisions. Among other things, this means that each application must be properly considered on its merits before a final decision is made.

(Case summary provided by the British Institute of Human Rights.)

Human rights, human lives: a guide to the Human Rights Act for public authorities’ provides legal case studies that show how human rights work in practice.

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